The Netbook of Feats Rating System

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The Rating System

The NBoF rating system has been with us since the beginning. It’s proven to be fairly useful in analyzing a feats strengths and weaknesses. It’s not a perfect system (for instance it’s hard to describe a feat as being too weak) but most alternate ideas proved too complicated or difficult to read. The primary purpose of the ratings is to give readers some idea of how good we think a given feat is. That way they can decide if they want to try using it in their game. Generally, most DMs make this decision based on their own assessments.

We try to have each feat rated by at least 3 reviewers before we include it in the NBOF and so far we have been able to achieve that goal. Usually four or five is about the optimal number of reviews to catch most problems and make a few good suggestions for improvement.

The NBOF rating is expressed like this.
Balance: X.X (Purp X, Pow X, Port X, Comp X, Rule X)

Scores

Scores are given in whole number values from 0 to 5 for each rating category, with 5 being the best score and 0 the worst. An overall score is generated as the average of the scores for each category and is usually shown to one decimal place. When averaging the scores from multiple reviewers to create the final score for the feat, we calculate them to two decimal places.

Here is how the numbers have traditionally been interpreted:
5 - This is about as good as something can get.
4 - This is a good score, there are some minor flaws, although often unavoidable.
3 - Pretty decent, but has some inherent flaws or could be improved upon in some way.
2 - Fairly bad, but not utterly hopeless. This is generally below the threshold of the NBOF standards.
1 - This indicates some very serious problems, and is just plain bad in some way.
0 - It doesn’t get worse than this, any feat with a zero in some category is utterly broken and probably beyond hope of redemption.

Try to keep in mind that while we are giving our personal opinions when rating a feat, we are also trying to rate them for a broader audience. So if you think that an issue you have is likely due to a personal preference not widely held, try not to over emphasize it in your ratings. For instance, if you don’t like spontaneous spell casters, don’t rate all feats dealing with that rule with ones and twos just because of that.

Also try to keep each category somewhat separate. A feat could be way too powerful, but still good if the bonus was smaller. Leadership is a very complicated feat (including multiple tables and rules) but it’s also very interesting and plays a unique roll in the game. Sometimes there is legitimate cross-over, for instance a feat that ignores some game rules might be complicated because it leads to confusion about how it should work. Or a feat that is exceptionally weak might not have much purpose as no one would take it. Try not to use the scores as a way to veto a feat, no matter your score you can always lobby for the feat to be rejected.

Any feat that receives an over-all score of less than 3.0 is automatically rejected for publication. That isn’t to say that any feat with more than a 3.0 is automatically accepted, just that they are qualified to be included. Generally a feat that has an average score less than 2.5 in a given category is unlikely to pass muster with the board no matter its other scores.

Rating Categories

Purpose (Purp): Here are questions we ask when evaluating a feat's purpose. Would anyone want to take this feat? Have I seen something like this in a movie or book? Does the feat help me to make a certain kind of character? Are there already feats that accomplish this goal better than this one? Is this feat just a weaker version of some spell or class ability? Much of the time this is an assessment of the “idea” behind the feat more than its mechanics.

Power (Pow): This is perhaps one of the most important ratings. When rating the power of a feat we usually compare it to the feats in the SRD with similar prerequisites. We rate feats lower for being too strong and for being too weak. Every feat should give the character some kind of useful advantage, but should not be so good that you would be a fool not to take it. We try to think of ways to combine the feat with others, and ways it could be abused or taken advantage of. It’s not just about how big a bonus is, but also how commonly it can be used and how easy it is to counter. A feat can be marked down in power for being too weak as well as being too strong, but this can lead to some confusion for readers. Purpose is probably a better category to dock a feat for being too weak.

Portability (Port): This is a measure of how generally acceptable a feat is from one campaign world to another. It takes into account cultural assumptions, power level, use of special rules, and the like. Some feats may suffer because they seem implausible to perform, while others will suffer because they are specific to an unusual race or culture. Sometimes a feat with a low power rating will suffer here because it's unlikely many DMs will accept it without special circumstances.

Complexity (Comp): This is one of the easier categories to judge. Here are some questions we ask when evaluating complexity. How easy is it to understand the feat? How long is it, and how many different rules does it require knowledge of? Would the feat make combat or other situations more time consuming and monotonous? Could this feat do the same thing with a simpler mechanic? Does the feat require bookkeeping? Does the feat clearly explain how it is used, or are there a lot of unanswered questions? Some of the more complicated feats in the SRD are the most interesting ones. Indeed those that score a 5 here are often a little on the boring side.

Rules (Rule): Does the feat follow the SRD rules accurately? Does it explain its mechanics clearly? Does the feat follow the standard feat guidelines and conventions for a feat? If you are rating a feat that uses some kind of optional rule, try to decide how well established and workable those special rules are. Divine and Psionic feats would do badly in this category if they weren’t already established in the SRD.

Overall Rating (Balance): This is the average of the five categories, and represents the overall acceptability of the feat. Feats with a perfect rating are very rare things, especially if they were reviewed by many reviewers. Some feats with a very high rating are not the most interesting or fun, just very safe and simple. In general though, the higher the rating the better the feat and the more likely it is not to unbalance your game. Feats that have a score of less than 3.5 may well have been considered unacceptable by some members of the review board but were well liked by others. Even the best feats can be a problem in the hands of a very clever player, so in the end DM’s discretion is the best judge of a good feat.



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